It's time to take back the sport that many of us grew up with and still love. Many of us not only enjoyed the action on the track each week, but we also managed to learn quite a bit about life. Maybe without even knowing it. When things broke, we learned to fix whatever it was, or found somebody that could help us learn how. When it rained, we learned that neither racers nor a track owner could control or predict the weather with perfection so we went home and waited for the next race night. When bad calls were made, we learned that "shit happens" and not everything in life is fair. When drivers showed respect to others on the track, we learned that respect is usually given in return, and that makes for much better racing and life in general. We learned the value of real friends and fellow racers that were always there to lend a hand or even their last good tire. We learned that clean, tough competition was what made us work to be better each week, and welcomed it. We learned to look up to those that helped make this sport what it was before we came along, and helped us get started. Is it just me or has all of this learning stopped?
No, I sure as hell don't think everything was peaches and cream back in the good ol' days, but things sure have changed alot over the years, and the most recent changes haven't always been good. Now it seems that if something breaks many choose to just spend the money to have it fixed or built. That way you have somebody else to blame. When it rains the track is to blame for either canceling, or trying wait out the weather. When bad calls are made, it's getting all too common to see violence on and off the track to "settle the score". Worst of all, respect seems to be something some of these current teams don't understand at all. They prove that with fellow racers as well as track officials nearly every week.
When my dad got me hooked on racing well over 30 years ago, it was not only a family ritual, it was a way of life. To this day, it still is a great way of life and I could never thank my old man enough for introducing me to it. I really wish he was still healthy enough to make it out to track. I've met many good friends, idolized the legends, and worked with rookies and champions, all while learning many life lessons over the decades. Even the worst of race nights had their good moments and I suppose that's why I've been involved with it for so many years. Lately though, I've had some conversations with myself (that happens sometimes ;-) questioning where this sport is headed, and if/why I should stick with it. Watching teams throw hissy fits and even fight with track officials brings me back to my younger days. If I would have acted anything like that at a race track back then, my old man would have flogged my ass to a bloody pulp, and I'd probably be a florist or something by now. He sure as hell would have seen to it that I didn't disgrace this sport with my attitude and actions. Where the hell are the parents like him now?
We sure as hell wouldn't have the constant fighting in the pits, retaliation on the track, abuse of track officials, lack of respect for fellow racers, or constant bitching pissing and moaning about every little thing that didn't go exactly how some people wanted it. These days it's just too damn easy to get online and bash a track, driver, or team about something as silly as the weather. It's now more common to see violence and tantrums instead of a serious discussion to work things out. Well, I say it's time tracks and real racers step up and do something to stop the bullshit, and take this sport back from the snot nosed brats (not all of them are young folks either) that are working on running it into the ground.
Obviously some tracks suffer from these problems worse than others, and this weekend was proof of that. While I give Lakeville plenty of credit for trying to turn things in the right direction, it's painfully obvious that more needs to be done there, as well as at other tracks. It's time that tracks show that tantrums on the track will not be tolerated, period. Retaliation of any type on the track should get you loaded up and escorted through the damn gates, no matter who you are. Repeat offenders need to be banned for life, with no exceptions. Abusing or threatening a track official should result in an escort out the gate at the very least. Why the hell do so many racers and tracks put up with all the crap that ruins a good night of racing? It's not fair to the real racers and fans that come for a race to have to put up with the bullshit and delays. These idiots will either run out of places to race or clean up their acts.
If you race at a track that suffers from these problems, and give a shit about the future of grass roots racing, it's time to have a calm discussion with the track owners and staff to share thoughts on the best way to clean things up. Screaming at owners and officials will get you nowhere, but I'd bet money that any track owner or promoter will listen to ways to improve his show for fans, and get more cars in the pits. While you can't expect all or even any of your ideas to become etched in stone, the suggestions and concerns will be heard and discussed at the very least. Even if you don't have the answers to cure the problem, calmly letting them know that you're tired of the drama and violence will help. If you own a track that suffers from these problems, maybe it's time to get some heads together and have a discussion with racers and even other tracks to find a way to clean things up. It would make for a much better experience for everybody involved, and could easily affect the finacial state of any track. Cleaning things up will sure as hell help keep this sport alive and well during these tough financial times too. Racers and fans don't have to go to tracks that ignore the problems, and tracks don't have to put up with idiots that cause problems that chase people away. It's as simple as that. Doing nothing results in nothing. It's time to get back to racing and leave the drama to the politicians.
On a sad note, area racing lost a Hall Of Fame member, and I lost a personal hero on September 26th when Pete Bonewit passed away. Not only was he the very first driver I ever got to know, but he was probably one of the best personalities this sport has ever seen. I got many of my early impressions of racing with him in that famous "Snoopy car", and those memories will certainly last me a life time. Thankyou for the memories sir, and may you rest in peace!